In 2015 I joined a group of conservation scientists working for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) as they carried out surveys on European storm petrels, which nest on the small island of Mousa in Shetland. Storm petrels nest in the holes and cracks between, and beneath, rocks and stones on this island. They can nest in the dry stone walls, on boulder-strewn beaches and clifftops, in the walls of abandoned buildings and in the island's famous Iron Age Broch.
The project, led by Dr Mark Bolton, involved fitting a small number of birds with satellite tracking tags to learn more about their foraging habits and counting the number of birds currently nesting on the island.
The survey team played storm petrel calls from speakers held next to holes and cracks between rocks. Storm petrels nesting within would hear the recording from the speaker and, believing they'd heard a real bird, call back. Counting the number of calls received, and mapping their locations, gave the team an estimate of the number of nesting birds across the whole island, without ever disturbing their nests.
My photographs documented this process and provided the survey team with a visual record of their fieldwork, which they could use in subsequent talks and seminars about the project.
In 2020, Mark and the RSPB published a paper based on this research in the journal Bird Conservation International. For a more general overview of the project's findings, the RSPB also published a blog post, written by Mark, available here.
Special thanks to the RSPB staff who allowed me to stay on Mousa in 2015 and document this project.